Trip NAM to Malawi-Comments welcome!





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  1. #1
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    Default Trip NAM to Malawi-Comments welcome!

    Hi,
    with the great help of MikevR, Steve and Thinus (and quite a few others...) I finally have our route from WHK to Malawi in the coming x-mas holidays together.

    We are most likely travelling with 3 cars, fairly well equiped and experienced, mainly camping...
    • Whk-El fari (BOT)
    • Gweta - Planet Baobab
    • Pandamatenga into Hwange
    • 2 nights Hwange
    • Chizarira-2 nights
    • Matusadona-3 nights
    • Kariba
    • via Lusaka to Luangwa Bridge
    • Lilongwe
    • Rumphi
    • Nyika Plateau-2 nights
    • Livingstonia- 2 nights
    • Chinteche- 2 nights
    • Bua River
    • Cape Mc L/Chembe- 2 nights
    • Thyolo- 2 nights
    • via Blantyre into MOZ, Tete
    • into Zim, Mutare (most likely Bvumba area for overnight)
    • Via Masvingo, Ruins to Bulawayo
    • via Plumtree to Planet Baobab
    • either to El Fari again or Ghanzi
    • Back home
    Maybe there are things, that I didn't realize when putting everything together, maybe there are stretches too long...

    I would appreciate your valued input

    Many thanks in advance and best regards from Windhoek!

    PS
    I shall also post this in the Zimbabwe-section, so please ignore, in case you see it twice

  2. #2
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    We currently on our way home and did some time in Malawi
    You can see posts on Nyika - http://theafricanexperience.wordpres...ptember-nyika/
    The road in/out is very long. over 100km of pretty bad gravel road. Rates one of my worst days driving.
    http://theafricanexperience.wordpres...-livingstonia/
    The day trip we did. Not sure if I would spend two nights there. maybe one night. all depends on what you like.

    you will find some lovely posts about Maclear done by the better writers in the group.
    Still writing other posts so might be some info in there.

    Personally I would miss out Nyika and go to Makuzi Bay again depends what you like

  3. #3
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    The road into Nyika can be pretty bad, but you can do Lilongwe to Chelinda (Nyika) in one day, no need to overnight in Rumphi, where there isn't much worth seeing. Also, personally I would only do one night at Livingstonia and do an extra night at Nyika, but that's personal - for me, the Nyika is one of Africa's special places, and there is masses to do there, sightseeing, botanising, hiking, fly fishing for trout if you're into that, birding etc. It is unique - there are only a few places like it in Africa.

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    First observation is that you are driving very close to South Luangwa so it is a bit of a tragedy not to visit.

    You can do Lilongwe to Chelinda in one day if luck is on your side. It's 4/5 hours to Mzuzu and then around the same to Chelinda - though if the road is bad this can stretch to 6 or more. (I'm surprised if the road is bad now though as the rains shouldn't even have started...). So if you want to do this then leave Lilongwe very early. They will not let you through the gate at Thazima if they think you won't make camp by sunset and it is at least 2 hours to Chelinda from there.

    It is not a bad idea to overnight in the Rumphi area if you are running late but as Tony says there's nothing much to the town and it is well worth driving the 25km or so from Rumphi to Vwaza NP and camping by the lake. If it still dry when you are there you will see lots of elephant.

    Personally I would either go to Nyika or Livingstonia. They are part of the same plateau and IMO it isn't really worth a days drive to come off the plateau and then climb back up it. I am biased but I would say go to Nyika for three days. Livingstonia has some lovely views but it is essentially a lovely view point whereas Nyika is thousands of square kms of stunning scenery to explore plus some good game viewing (if you like big herds of eland and roan and the odd leopard).

    Makusi/Chinteche/Cape Mclear are all lovely as are lots of other places on the Lake but they are beach stops and I'd pick one place on the lake and stick there to be honest.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by itchyfeet View Post
    Makusi/Chinteche/Cape Mclear are all lovely as are lots of other places on the Lake but they are beach stops and I'd pick one place on the lake and stick there to be honest.
    Absolutely agree with this - rather find one beach spot (Maclear is the obvious choice, but will be busy over December) and chill there for a longer period.

  6. #6
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    Hi itchyfeet!
    Thanks for all your info.

    Quote Originally Posted by itchyfeet View Post
    First observation is that you are driving very close to South Luangwa so it is a bit of a tragedy not to visit.

    We spent quite some time in SLNP last year, that's why we skip it this time.

    You can do Lilongwe to Chelinda in one day if luck is on your side. It's 4/5 hours to Mzuzu and then around the same to Chelinda - though if the road is bad this can stretch to 6 or more. (I'm surprised if the road is bad now though as the rains shouldn't even have started...). So if you want to do this then leave Lilongwe very early.

    That's good news, because I did not really favour a stop in Rumphi. So you advise rather to drive straight up to the plateau?

    It is not a bad idea to overnight in the Rumphi area if you are running late but as Tony says there's nothing much to the town and it is well worth driving the 25km or so from Rumphi to Vwaza NP and camping by the lake. If it still dry when you are there you will see lots of elephant.

    Shall keep that in mind then...

    Personally I would either go to Nyika or Livingstonia. They are part of the same plateau and IMO it isn't really worth a days drive to come off the plateau and then climb back up it.
    How long would you say is the driving from Nyika to Livingst.? But if there is not that much to see it might be better to stay a day more on the plateau...
    Makusi/Chinteche/Cape Mclear are all lovely as are lots of other places on the Lake but they are beach stops and I'd pick one place on the lake and stick there to be honest.
    My idea of choosing 2 different spots at the lake was, that they might give a different perspective of the lake? But it is not a 'must'...

    I tried to pick a few things, that we can not see or do that easily in Namibia, that's why I left out most of the National Parks.

  7. #7
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    @ Tony:

    I read quite e few of your posts-especially about the plataeu. And if it is possible to drive up from Lilongwe to Nyika in one go, then I would definetly spend more time up there.

    [QUOTE=Tony Weaver;1896969]The road into Nyika can be pretty bad, but you can do Lilongwe to Chelinda (Nyika) in one day, no need to overnight in Rumphi, where there isn't much worth seeing. Also, personally I would only do one night at Livingstonia

    To you- is it worthwhile going to Livingstonia? What about the waterfall?

  8. #8
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    @donjolley
    Thanks for the info and the shared links :-)

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    Hi,
    I don't know Nyika, but to me Livingstonia is worthwile and not to miss. Not only for the (amazing) situation on the edge of the cliff of the lodges/camps of the area, but also from an historical and human point of view.
    I think also that your plans on the lake are not so bad, visiting different places. If you have time go for one night or two on Domwe Island, wether by kayak or by motorboat with Kayak Africa at Chembe (booking needed in December, this is what we have been told there).
    Pierre
    -------------------------------------------------------------

  10. #10
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    @ Pierre

    Merci ;-)

    Unfortunately Domwe was already fully booked at that time :-( Would have been marvelous. But then on the other hand-it might be a reason to go back...

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    Something I missed and would suggested is Zomba Plateau
    http://theafricanexperience.wordpres...lateau-malawi/
    The drive from Rhumphi to Nkiya is looong :-) 100km of bad gravel road.
    Nkiya is beautiful but the fact you have to pay a guide to walk you everywhere just killed it for us.
    We had kids so the lake was a hit.
    Careful of the drive from Nyika to Livingstonia as there is a shorter road on the map but not sure how drivable it is. we came from the east on a day trip and took some time to get up. We visited Lugwe eco camp for coffee and thought it was great and would suggest an overnight there. other than that it could be done in a day.

    I agree with Pierre, if you can do Domwe island do it. otherwise you have to go out on a day trip to one of the island for snorkelling. if you dont go on a day trip you may as well not go to Maclear you cant just swim a snorkel off the beach there.

  12. #12
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    Hi Don,

    Sorry for your experience at Nyika. It was always been the case that multiday walks are required to be accompanied eg Chelinda to Livingstonia. This is fair enough as there are the possibility of both elephant and poachers but I don't believe it is the case that you can't walk anywhere without a guide and if someone told you so then I suspect they were trying to drum up a little business. It certainly wasn't the case when we were living there in 2009/2010 or when we were last there in 2011. Plus various friends of ours in Malawi are regularly up there and have not reported any such "rule".

    I'll try and get "official" confirmation and post back.

    In practice there is nothing to stop you just driving out and taking a walk. Frankly no one is going to know if you are climbing Nganda or out on a drive. Obviously be responsible and get maps and a GPS. If you do get lost you will be in trouble ...
    Last edited by itchyfeet; 2013/10/14 at 11:12 AM.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by donjolley View Post
    Something I missed and would suggested is Zomba Plateau
    http://theafricanexperience.wordpres...lateau-malawi/
    The drive from Rhumphi to Nkiya is looong :-) 100km of bad gravel road.
    Nkiya is beautiful but the fact you have to pay a guide to walk you everywhere just killed it for us.
    We had kids so the lake was a hit.
    Careful of the drive from Nyika to Livingstonia as there is a shorter road on the map but not sure how drivable it is. we came from the east on a day trip and took some time to get up. We visited Lugwe eco camp for coffee and thought it was great and would suggest an overnight there. other than that it could be done in a day.

    I agree with Pierre, if you can do Domwe island do it. otherwise you have to go out on a day trip to one of the island for snorkelling. if you dont go on a day trip you may as well not go to Maclear you cant just swim a snorkel off the beach there.
    Zomba is quite interesting but is not comparable to Nyika or Mulanje scenerywise. The views are often completely obscured by mist which leaves you with a small Malawian town to explore (albeit the old centre of government).

    You can drive from Nyika to Livingstonia via the back road. Instead of crossing the bridge over the river on the way put of Rumphi you go straight through. It can get impassable in the wet though and it wil be a rough drive year round. Plus you miss the "fun" of the hairpins on the main route in. Please note that despite some maps showing otherwise (!) you cannot drive off the escarpment to the east. There is not and never has been a road and if you go and look over the side of the escarpment you'll see why.

    Other great stops IMO are Majete NP and Vwaza NP. Mua Mission is also fascinating for an insight into tribal history and tradition and the chance to buy some exquisite carving for a reasonable price direct from the craftsmen thenselves.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pierre77N View Post
    Hi,
    I don't know Nyika, but to me Livingstonia is worthwile and not to miss. Not only for the (amazing) situation on the edge of the cliff of the lodges/camps of the area, but also from an historical and human point of view.
    I think also that your plans on the lake are not so bad, visiting different places. If you have time go for one night or two on Domwe Island, wether by kayak or by motorboat with Kayak Africa at Chembe (booking needed in December, this is what we have been told there).
    Dont get me wrong Pierre Livingstonia is lovely and does have the historical interest. I was just saying that you can get the same and better views all over Nyika so I wouldn't go to Livingstonia afterwards or you'll wonder why you spent a day on rough roads to ride down the side of the plateau and then back up again. The "bonus" you get at Nyika is that apart from stunning views off the edge of the plateau you get to explore some stunning scenery on the top.


  15. #15
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    [QUOTE=hamburger;1897087]@ Tony:

    I read quite e few of your posts-especially about the plataeu. And if it is possible to drive up from Lilongwe to Nyika in one go, then I would definetly spend more time up there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Weaver View Post
    The road into Nyika can be pretty bad, but you can do Lilongwe to Chelinda (Nyika) in one day, no need to overnight in Rumphi, where there isn't much worth seeing. Also, personally I would only do one night at Livingstonia

    To you- is it worthwhile going to Livingstonia? What about the waterfall?
    Last time I drove it, we left Chelinda at around 8am, stopped for lunch in Mzuzu, stopped at a couple of markets along the way, and were in Lilongwe in time for early drinks before dinner. The access road then was in reasonable condition, but still a max speed of around 40km/h most of the way.
    Re Livingstonia, historically, it is obviously of interest, and the waterfall, and the cave behind it where people hid from the slave traders, is certainly interesting, but if you have to cut from your itinerary, I would cut Livingstonia. But as Lisa says, the hairpin bends on the pass up to Livingstonia make for some interesting driving.
    As for walking on the Nyika, again, as Lisa says, there is absolutely nothing to stop you walking on your own in the park on day trips from Chelinda. For multi-day hikes, you have to take a guide, and it is advisable, as the topography can be confusing. We walked from Chelinda to Livingstonia and back, fly fishing some of the rivers on the way, and it was one of the best hikes I have done, but it took us (I think) five or six days. I would be careful of doing a long hike in December, as the lighting storms can be fairly hectic.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by itchyfeet View Post
    Dont get me wrong Pierre Livingstonia is lovely and does have the historical interest. I was just saying that you can get the same and better views all over Nyika so I wouldn't go to Livingstonia afterwards or you'll wonder why you spent a day on rough roads to ride down the side of the plateau and then back up again. The "bonus" you get at Nyika is that apart from stunning views off the edge of the plateau you get to explore some stunning scenery on the top.
    Hi Lisa,
    No doubt seing your picture that Nyika is wonderful and I hope to visit once.
    I couldn't compare, I just meant that Livingstonia in my opinion is worthwile and maybe it's worth the rough road if not too bad...
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Pierre
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    Hi,
    the drive from Lilongwe to Chelinda is is verry long and the section between Rumpi and the park gate use to be nasty, espesially at the end of the dry season when the earth is hard like stone, with a lot of corrugations and holes...We use to stop at Luwawa forest lodge on the Viphya plateau to break the journey in to. It is a pleasent place and the fishing in the dam is allright...

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    Ok i just realise you will go in december...also not in october as i thought
    It doesn t make it faster anyway, on the opposite...

  19. #19
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    Dear all,

    many thanks for your comments!

    As so often, it is a matter of personal favours, likes and dislikes or how and where to put an emphasis, when you plan a trip.
    I thought to choose places, that we do not have in Namibia and that are more or less unique to Malawi. Going to Malawi for the first time, you cannot go too much into details, rather get an impression of what it is like and then going into details the next times...
    Furthermore it is difficult to calculate distances, when one does not know the local conditions. Another factor is the rainy season. One never knows what to find en route...

    But I shall take all your info into consideration and continue 'sitting ' with my maps and reading further comments ....

    Best regards from an awfully hot Windhoek

  20. #20
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    Hamburger, just about everything in Malawi is different from Namibia - especially in green season. Somewhere like Thyolo in December will make your eyes hurt it's such a vivid green. And there are people everywhere. Lots and lots of people. If I were you I wouldn't over plan it. Except for Xmas itself December will be very quiet and the distances are fairly short so you can afford to play it by ear.

    Have a fabulous trip.

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